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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Go to the forest! Swedish phrases to use when you’re angry

There's nothing more infuriating than not having the right words to express your anger. Worry no longer; these are the phrases to learn and save for those occasions when you need to get angry in Swedish.

Go to the forest! Swedish phrases to use when you're angry
Use these phrases with caution. Photo: Philipp Pilz/Unsplash

People in Sweden tend to show anger less often, or at least less openly, than is common in other countries. But sometimes you just can't avoid confrontation, and when it happens you'll need the right vocabulary.

We've kept this guide relatively clean without the most explicit swear words, but you should still wield these with caution.

Lägg av – lay off/cut it out

If you want someone to stop doing or saying something, and it's getting on your last nerve, this is the phrase to use. Put the emphasis on the av.

It doesn't have to be angry; said with a smile it could be a response to friendly teasing or imply you don't believe what someone's saying, translated in English as 'ah, come on!'

But you can also use it to let someone know you're really losing patience. Follow up with Sluta! (Stop it!) if needed. 

If you're in a position of authority, for example a parent or teacher talking to children, you might start with a stern det räcker nu ('that's enough now') instead. This emphasises that you're the one who decides, whereas lägg av and sluta are often used between equals.

Är du seriös? – Are you for real? 

This can also be exchanged for skämtar du med mig? or skojar du? (are you joking) to express disbelief. They're not always used to show anger, and could be used if someone gives you news that sounds too good or surprising to be true, but combined with a warning tone they can be used to show you're getting fed up with what the other person's saying.

Det skiter jag i! – I don't care/I don't give a shit

This literally translates as “I shit on that” but it's not quite so vulgar in Swedish. Skit is used a lot in Swedish, often as a colloquial word for 'stuff' or 'thing'. Still, this phrase could definitely burn some bridges so only use it when you're certain you don't care.

For example: Vi kommer bli sena. Det skiter jag i! (We're going to be late. I don't give a shit!)


Photo: Vera Arsic/Pexels

Du har satt din sista potatis – you have planted your last potato

This very Swedish saying might not sound all that menacing, but Swedes love their potatoes. With no more left to plant, what's the point of anything any more? It's basically another way of saying 'I've had enough of you', 'That's the last straw'. 

Du retar gallfeber på mig – you make bile rise in my throat

If someone's really getting on your nerves, in the way that every little thing they do provokes an almost physical reaction from you, this is the phrase you want.

Han retar gallfeber på mig means something like 'he's driving me crazy' – you reserve it for things you really can't stand. A milder variant is han går mig på nerverna (he's getting on my nerves).

Fan också! – Damn as well!

Like skit, fan is a relatively tame Swedish swear word so you should moderate your usage in polite company, but it shouldn't raise any eyebrows among friends or even in some workplaces – as long as your expletives aren't aimed directly at a coworker.

Adding också (also) after a swear word is a common way of adding emphasis, perfect if you want to express anger but also show off your growing fluency at the same time.


Photo: Skitterphoto/Pexels

Lämna mig i fred! – leave me alone

Literally 'leave me in peace', and you can substitute it with låt mig vara (leave me be) if you're so furious you just need some time to cool off.

Sköt dig själv – mind your own business

Literally translating as 'look after/care for yourself' (and sometimes used in neutral contexts too), this can also be useful if dealing with someone nosy.

Håll käften – shut up

This literally means 'shut your mouth', but you would usually not use mun, the usual translation for 'mouth' in this phrase. Instead, you use käft (which also means 'jaw') or you can say håll truten, using another slang term for 'mouth'. 

Dra åt skogen – go to the forest

Swedes spend a lot of their free time having a perfectly pleasant time in nature, but this phrase isn't about that. It's a toned down form of dra åt helvete (go to hell).

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

The word of the day is perhaps Sweden’s second favourite pastime, after 'fika', and they often go hand in hand.

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

In 2017 Swedish television published an article with the headline, Möteskulturen frodas i Sverige, “The Meeting Culture is Thriving in Sweden”. For a non-Swede that might seem like an interesting and perhaps bizarre headline, but to the initiated it is all too familiar. 

A möte is simply a meeting, but for Swedes möten are something you do at every opportunity. Need to decide anything at all? Let’s have a möte. This can seem like an awful waste of time to a non-Swede, but Swedes are all about consensus. The idea is that after you have consensus you can move forward more efficiently. And Swedish society seems to do that really well. And it does not hurt that a möte is the perfect time for fika, or more precisely mötesfika.

As a bit of history, the English ‘meeting’ and Swedish möte are related, and they are also related to ‘moot’ as in ‘moot court’ or a ‘moot point’, “an issue that is subject to, or open for discussion or debate; originally, one to be definitively determined by an assembly of the people.” That assembly of people was originally an old Germanic type of town hall, a ting, where people met to discuss communal matters and settle disputes.

Today we can find the word ting in the names of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, the Danish parliament, the Folketing, and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. In Sweden you still find it in the name of the lower courts, Tingsrätten

The point is, there is a very old tradition of möten in Scandinavian culture. The Icelandic parliament, for instance, claims to be the oldest in the world. Whether the Icelanders can beat the Swedes at the time spent in möten at work is unsure, no statistics seem to be readily available for a comparison. 

Malin Åkerström, the researcher who was interviewed in the piece by Swedish television, claims that the public sector are the primary champions of möten, but it is also very common in the private sector. And möten are on the rise in many workplaces. 

Here it might help to know that in Sweden a möte can also be between you and just one other co-worker to discuss almost anything, so the term is quite broad. Then there are so called arbetsplatsträffar, more commonly referred to as APT, a type of longer, more serious möte that many workplaces hold regularly (there you can almost always count on fika). 

As you can see, Swedes love their möten – so why not find an excuse to stämma tid för ett möte with one of your Swedish friends or maybe a coworker? You might just make their day.

Example sentences:

Bettan, kan vi stämma tid för ett möte?

Bettan, can we decide on a time for a meeting?

Jag blir galen med alla dessa konstanta möten, va fan är det för fel på svenskar?

I’m going insane with all these constant meetings, what the hell is wrong with these Swedes?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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